NEWARK, N.J. –- I asked Wes Welker on Tuesday if his collision with Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship could be equated to a game of chicken.
“In a big game like that, of course,” said Welker. “You’re out there trying to help your team win. Both guys are trying to be competitive, I think, and it worked out the way it did. Hopefully he’s doing good.”
Welker, who is in his first season with the Broncos after six with the Patriots, knocked Talib, New England's top corner, from the game on Jan. 19 with a hit that deeply irked Patriots coach Bill Belichick. In the nine days since, the play has been dissected like the Zapruder film.
But it's nearly impossible to get to the meat of the play amid hysteria from both sides over whether the hit was clean or dirty, whether the contact was early or late and whether Welker is now on Belichick’s “HATE SOOOO MUCH!!!” list.
Welker got to it Tuesday.
They collided because neither guy backed down. Because they are both wired that way and -- in a game of this import -- you don’t step around a pick. And when Welker realized which way Talib was going, it was too late for him to take evasive action.
Before the snap, Welker didn't think, “Now I take out Aqib for the game,” but he did set out to take Talib out of the play. That’s what a pick does. This was one that went bad.
This was Welker’s third Super Bowl Media Day. Over the 30 minutes I posted up at his spot, he was interviewed by Deion Sanders, ESPN’s Chris Berman and the Steelers' Brett Keisel (awkwardly). Welker fielded questions from kids and entertainment reporters. He was glib and smooth.
But myself, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald and Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe were on hand to chronicle Welker. Ten months ago, he walked out of New England to see what kind of free-agent interest he could drum up. The door shut behind him.
Media drama queens have been teasing out the Welker-Belichick storyline ever since. The collision, and Belichick’s reaction to it, have been like sliding a trough of gravy in front of a fat man.
Shaughnessy’s angle -– that Belichick was out of line for protesting Welker's veering into Talib’s way –- was clear.
Shaughnessy’s first question was, “Why does Bill hate you?”
That was dismissed by Welker.
Shaughnessy’s second question came much later when he asked, “What’s your job on that play?”
“It’s a rub play that everybody runs,” Welker explained. “It’s one of those deals where you try to get a rub on that guy and, really, if you can get him to go over the top of you, the more separation the other receiver will have. That’s what I tried to do -- to get Demaryius a little more open -- and unfortunately we collided.“
“Was there anything uncommon about it? Unusual about it?” Welker was asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Welker.
“Were you taught that play in New England?” he was asked.
“We ran the same play,” Welker replied.
Anybody with opposable thumbs should know what was unusual about it. The receiver and defensive back didn’t “rub.” They head a side-on collision. I’m sure it’s happened before at some point, but I can’t recall a collision that square and that explosive before the ball reached its intended target.
Wes Welker intended to pick Aqib Talib. He didn’t intend to take him out of the game. It’s not that complicated.
Tom E. Curran is the Patriots insider for CSN New England.